Political Authority in Vietnam: Is the Vietnamese communist party a paper leviathan?

Event details

PSC Seminar

Date & time

Tuesday 29 August 2017


PSC Reading Room 4.27, Hedley Bull Centre (130), Garran Road, ANU
ANU Canberra


Adam Fforde and Lada Homutova


Helen McMartin

In a contribution to the political analysis of contemporary Vietnam, a single-Party state, this paper seeks to provide an understanding of the Vietnamese term ‘authority’ (‘uy’) and its relationship to power. Thomas Hobbs’s Leviathan serves as a reference to the notion of authority in Vietnam and is compared to data - what the Vietnamese thought their word best translated as authority meant. The authors’ approach focusses on political language to identify gaps between the current anachronistic use of Soviet-style power in Vietnam and authority or the powers based on authority. They argue that the Vietnamese Communist Party is oriented towards securing the regime’s basic functions through coercion and legitimizing strategies, however it lacks other types of power that would secure effective formation and implementation of policies and thus would contribute to successful governance. As such, many problems remain unresolved and state capacity continues to be low. Regime success, however genuinely wished for by both the leaders and the population, remains a rather distant dream. Issues of power and authority are debated in the light of a so-called ‘Vietnamese neoliberal project’. Based on interviews the authors conclude that Vietnam should not be classified as neoliberal and, given the identified lack of authority the Vietnamese Communist Party is no real Leviathan.

About the Speaker
Prof Adam Fforde is probably the most widely-cited scholar working on contemporary Vietnam (as of around mid-April 2017, about 2100 citations according to Google Scholar). He is a part-time Professorial Fellow at the Victorian Institute for Strategic Economic Studies, Victoria University. He has mainly made his living as a development consultant, but has continued to publish academically. He taught fulltime at NUS 2000-2001. He studied Engineering and Economics at Oxford (1973) before taking Masters and Doctoral Degrees in Economics at Birkbeck College London and Cambridge respectively. His published PhD (1982) was about agricultural cooperatives in north Vietnam and he studied Vietnamese at Hanoi University in 1978-79. His two academic publishing streams are on Vietnam and on development practice and ‘deep method’, with an interest in wider issues in policy government, drawing on his consultancy experience and training in economics, and thus his just published book Reinventing development – the sceptical change agent.

Lada Homutova is a PhD student at the Department of Political Science, Charles University, CZECH REPUBLIC. She is currently resident in Sydney.

Updated:  23 March 2016/Responsible Officer:  Su-Ann Tan/Page Contact:  CAP Web Team